MANAA Urges ABC to Give “Fresh Off The Boat” Another Season

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April 24, 2015

Mr. Paul Lee

President, ABC Entertainment Group

500 S. Buena Vista Street

Burbank, CA  91521

Dear Paul,

I hope this letter finds you well.  Congratulations on an historic year for ABC.

You should rightfully be proud of showing the industry that new series starring people of color–“How To Get Away With Murder,” “Black-ish,” and “Fresh Off The Boat”—can be successful and that this model needs to be emulated if networks are to appeal to the ever-changing racial and cultural demographics of this country.

As you probably know, there have been several community screenings of “FOTB” in New York and Los Angeles, with hundreds having to be turned away.  The night of its February 4 preview, #FreshOffTheBoat was the most popular twitter subject in the country even dethroning #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.

Obviously, Asian Americans have gravitated toward “FOTB,” the first Asian American sitcom in over 20 years.  Nielsen tells me that for its first 7 episodes, 19.4% of all Asian American households watched at least one episode within 7 days and for the first 8 episodes, they over-indexed at 227, meaning Asian Americans were 127% more likely to watch the series within 7 days.

During that time, white and black audiences were also watching the sitcom in greater proportion to their populations.

“FOTB” is a favorite of the critics, many of whom (e.g., Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety, Huffington Post, Boston Herald) called it one of the best shows—if not the best show–of the season.  Time found it “damn funny… Three episodes in, it’s the best broadcast comedy of the new season… a show with more voice after three episodes than most sitcoms have after three years.”  Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times wrote:  “’Fresh Off the Boat’ does what few television shows do now, which is to make race not beside the point.  It sits inside a minority culture and looks with bewilderment and bemusement at the dominant one… it’s a consistently funny and even important one, with some lovely, nuanced performances.”

It’s a prestigious show that you cannot afford to lose.

Despite being put in the tough Tuesday night 8 p.m. hour with no lead-in, new episodes of “FOTB” average a 1.73 Live+same day rating in the 18-49 age group, but jump to a 2.2 with Live+7 numbers, which consistently increased each of the past six weeks.  Its 18-49 Live+SameDay and total viewership numbers always beat competitors “MasterChef Junior,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “The Flash,” and “Parks and Recreation.”  “FOTB” is ABC’s top Tuesday night show, as well as the most popular comedy of the night outperforming “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project,” “Undateable,” “One Big Happy,” “Repeat After Me,” “Weird Loners” and (in the 18-49) even re-runs of “NCIS.”

Impressively, “FOTB” held its 1.8 rating on February 24 even with the return of NBC’s “The Voice.”  “FOTB’s” last three episodes have increased its 18-49 numbers.  Also, its 18-49 and total viewership numbers are better than last season’s “The Goldbergs” (1.73, 5.75 million total vs. 1.68, 5 million total), which you renewed.

Last season, “The Goldbergs” held the Tuesday 9 p.m. slot but improved impressively when moved this season to Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. (up 30.87% to a 2.2 and up 39.94% in total viewers to 7.08 million) with “The Middle” as its lead-in vs. the less compatible “S.H.I.E.L.D.”  Perhaps next season “FOTB” would also benefit from having a strong, compatible lead-in?

Given all of these considerations, we hope you will renew “Fresh Off The Boat” and give it sufficient promotion to ensure its long-term success. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Guy Aoki

Founding President, MANAA

cc:  Samie Falvey

Vicki Dummer

Keli Lee

Andy Kubitz

Marla Provencio

Tim McNeal

MANAA Berates Moderator of La Jolla Playhouse Panel Discussion For Not Allowing Aki Aleong To Speak

July 24, 2012

Dear Jeanine, I am the founding President of Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), the only organization solely dedicated to advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive depictions and coverage of Asian Americans in the media. Our non-profit, all-volunteer group recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Long before the La Jolla Playhouse’s production of “Nightingale” became a public controversy, we were already aware of it and the company’s possible violation of the LORT Contract, to which all local theatres are signatories. Aki Aleong (former President of MANAA) and I met with Actor’s Equity to discuss these violations on July 9. After the panel discussion was announced, I contacted Dana Harrel and suggested Aki be included on the panel because he had a different issue to discuss from the actors who would focus on the lack of opportunity for Asian American actors, etc.

Dana told me the panel was too full but she would make sure the moderator gave Aki a chance to speak to our issues. I confirmed this with her in an email Saturday. So you can imagine my anger when I later heard from my people who drove down from Los Angeles to the discussion that not only was Aki not recognized, but you were rude to him. I waited until seeing the posted video of that discussion before writing you. Aki had no choice but to stand up to speak as you were trying to wrap up the discussion. He identified himself as part of MANAA and reminded you that he was supposed to be recognized. You told him, “No, no…” When he continued to insist, you said, “No, I haven’t called on you.” He pointed out it was supposed to be on your sheet, yet you said, “You can talk to them afterwards…No, it was not scheduled.”

It was only after the audience and Christopher Ashley urged you to allow him to say his piece that he was able to continue. This put Aki in a difficult position of having to be more aggressive just to be heard (he angrily pointed out he’s been an actor for almost as long as you’ve been alive; in other words, “show me some respect!”). He read the LORT contract’s definition of “Non-Traditional Casting,” which was important to show the creative team that they were in violation of that aspect of the LORT Contract as NTC was supposed to benefit ethnic minorities, women, and those with disabilities. Not white men.

There were more issues he wanted to speak to, but he was clearly flustered at having to push through so much resistance just to say that. I spoke with Dana yesterday and she told me she had called you on Friday to tell you about our agreement and that she also reminded you of that on Sunday before the panel started. You allegedly said you did not write down his name because you were in the supermarket the first time (even though Dana told you to) and rationalized that although you forgot about Aki, it worked out “beautifully.” No, it did not.

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Asian American Media Watchdog Group Praises Disney/Pixar’s “Up” for Creating Asian American Protagonist

“Up’s” co-star, Jordan Nagai, plays a Wilderness Explorer who just happens to be Asian American.

LOS ANGELES – The Media Action Network for Asian Americans, the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring media depictions of Asian Americans, is praising Disney/Pixar for creating an Asian American boy as a co-star in their summer blockbuster film, “Up.” Nine-year-old Jordan Nagai, who is Japanese American, beat out 500 other auditioning children to star as Russell, a chubby Wilderness Explorer and wayward stowaway who tags along on septuagenarian Carl Fredricksen’s South American adventure. “Because Russell is just about the only young character in the entire movie, children will identify with him and see the film through his eyes,” Guy Aoki, founding president of MANAA, said. “The fact that he’s Asian American will help bring acceptance not only to Asian American boys, but overweight ones at that.”

The character’s design was inspired by the physical appearance of Pixar employee Peter Sohn, a Korean American director and story artist whose short film, “Partly Cloudy,” plays in theaters as the opening act for “Up.” “Children watching this movie will not see race in this story, but accept Russell as a fellow kid, which will make them more broad-minded than many of today’s adults in accepting people of color as heroes,” Aoki said. Noting that “Up” grossed $68.2 million over the weekend, making it Pixar’s third-highest opening film, Aoki says, “We hope the success of this project will lead studios to cast Asian Americans as the stars of live-action movies, because just as audiences can relate to Russell in “Up,” they’ll be able to relate to Asian American characters in live-action projects as well.” Veteran actor Aki Aleong praised Disney/Pixar for rebuking typecasting and creating a unique Asian American character and urged the Asian American community to support the movie. “Disney/Pixar could have drawn Russell as a white character, but instead, they demonstrated their commitment to diversity,” Aleong, a past MANAA President, said. “MANAA sincerely hopes that producers and film studios will follow Disney/Pixar’s lead and cast Asian Americans in non-traditional lead roles.”

With a career spanning half a decade, Aleong, 74, has witnessed first-hand the discriminatory practices Asian American actors have faced in Hollywood—and continue to face even today. Recently, MANAA condemned Sony Pictures for using mostly white actors to play real-life Asian Americans in the film “21” and Paramount Pictures for choosing white actors to portray Asian characters in next year’s “The Last Airbender.” “While other studios continue to deliberately cast whites to play Asian characters, Disney/Pixar has recognized that people of color can be heroes in feature films, too,” said Marissa Lee, spokesperson of racebending.com, a fan site protesting the casting of “The Last Airbender.” “Disney/Pixar did not define Russell’s character by overemphasizing or stereotyping his ethnicity,” Lee said. “He was courageous, determined, and kind to the people and animals he met on his adventure. While he is Asian American, what mattered most was the content of his character.”

In 1999, MANAA honored Disney for producing the Chinese-based story “Mulan” and again recognized the studio in 2006 for using a Hawaiian setting and creating an Asian Pacific American protagonist, Lilo, for “Lilo And Stitch.” Disney’s next animated feature film, “The Princess And The Frog,” also features a protagonist of color, Tiana, a New Orleans waitress-turned-princess, who is African American. “We are a country of change, and a colorblind America for all can only be realized when we portray the American scene honestly,” Aleong said. “Against the accustomed and unfounded fears of box office failure if a main character is non-white, ‘Up’ is a solid hit and now, history has been made.”

MANAA Blasts White-Washed Casting of Kevin Spacey’s “Based on a true story” New Film “21”

Organization raised concerns with Sony Pictures back in 2005

LOS ANGELES–Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and its depiction and coverage of Asian Americans, is upset that 21, the new film starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth and based on the best-selling novel “Bringing Down the House,” chose a white male lead instead of an Asian American and that Asian American actors were denied the opportunity to get meaty roles in a true-life story that featured mostly Asian Americans.

Ben Mezrich’s 2002 book was based on the true story of an MIT professor who taught 10-12 of his students how to count cards and beat Las Vegas casinos at blackjack. The majority of the players were Asian American, and the lead member of that student team was Jeff Ma, an Asian American. Although the filmmakers were aware of Ma’s role (he served as a consultant), the producers chose to give his part to a white British actor, Jim Sturgess. Two smaller, undeveloped roles went to Aaron Yoo and Liza Lapira. MANAA had been aware that producers Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti were “white-washing” the project back in 2005 when Mezrich told a forum at MIT that he was disappointed that Sony executives had decided to make most of the students white.

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Controversy Surrounds DVD Release of Movie “21”

Film could’ve been just as successful- and more accurate- with Asian American stars

LOS ANGELES – 21, the movie starring Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, and Kate Bosworth, will be issued on DVD on July 22nd. The controversial film, based on the best-selling novel Bringing Down The House, told the true story of the MIT professor who taught his students how to beat Vegas at blackjack and make millions. In reality, the professor, the player who scored the most money, and most of the team, were Asian American. In the movie, they were mostly portrayed by white actors- Kevin Spacey as the professor, and Jim Sturgess as the lead member. In this case, the ethnicity of the players was pertinent to the real-life drama. According to House author Ben Mezrich, a white person winning a lot of money in Vegas would raise suspicions, whereas Asians winning a lot would not.

Prior to shooting 21 in 2007, Sturgess had never starred in a film, and Across the Universe flopped upon release later that Fall, barely making back half of its $45 million budget. The British actor was not a household name. The fact that 21 grossed $81 million without big stars demonstrates it succeeded not because of the actors but its concept. Therefore, Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA- the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and its depiction and coverage of Asian Americans), believes the movie could have done just as well with Asian American stars as well-known as or better known than Sturgess (e.g. John Cho, Ivan Shaw, Masi Oka). Chinese American Jeff Ma, the real leader of the team, inflamed Asian Americans when he told USA Today, “I would have been a lot more insulted if they had chosen someone who was Japanese or Korean, just to have an Asian playing me.”

Boycott21 and other anti-21 websites quickly sprang up. After the “white-washing” issue was raised on Entertainment Weekly’s website, producer Dana Brunetti wrote: “Believe me, I would have LOVED to cast Asians in the lead roles, but the truth is, we didn’t have access to any bankable Asian-American actors that we wanted… If I had known how upset the Asian-American community would be about this, I would have picked a different story to film.” But Guy Aoki, MANAA’s Founding President, had spoken to Brunetti about the film in October of 2005. Back then, Brunetti said he did not care about realistic ethnic casting and was merely looking for “the best actor for the role”- a common excuse to cast white people in place of minorities. Says Aoki, “Asian American actors are 40 years behind African Americans in being allowed to play themselves in their own stories. 21, unfortunately, continues that discriminatory tradition.”

Please note our new address PRESS CONTACT P.O. Box 6188 Burbank, CA 91510-1105 (213) 486-4433 manaaletters@hotmail.com www.manaa.org

MANAA Blasts Rob Schneider For Offensive Racial Caricature in “Chuck & Larry” Movie

LOS ANGELES-MANAA (the Media Action Network for Asian Americans), the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive coverage and depictions of Asian Americans, is offended by Rob Schneider’s “yellow face” portrayal of a Japanese man in the current #1 movie in the country, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James.

In a scene where the main characters journey to Canada to get married, Schneider plays a minister who makes their union official, donning prosthetic make up (slanted eyes, bigger nose, darker skin color, etc.) to play a stereotypical Japanese nerd with thick eye-glasses and a bowl-style hair cut who speaks in broken English with missing “r”s. Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote, “I felt victimized by the stereotype shtick of … Schneider.” And Emmy-nominated actor Masi Oka (“Heroes”) told USA Today he was also offended by the yellow-face portrayal. Says MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki, “In August of 2006, shortly after Mel Gibson’s tirade against Jews, Schneider, pointing out he was half Jewish, took out a full page ad in Daily Variety promising to never work with the writer/director/actor. We wish Rob had the same pride about being part-Asian. Somehow, we don’t think he’d make the same assertion against someone who spouted anti-Asian hatred because the actor has himself done quite a good job of putting down people of Asian descent.

As Richard Roeper of ‘Ebert and Roeper’ recently said in his review of Chuck and Larry, ‘Rob Schneider’s Filipino background [he’s a quarter] hardly excuses his portrayal of an Asian minister in perhaps the most egregious stereotype of its kind since Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’” Rob Schneider also repeatedly perpetuated the tired stereotype that Asian men have small penises in a 2005 movie he co-wrote, Deuce Bigalo: European Gigolo” (e.g. an Asian male prostitute says in broken English, “I no more man-whore! Too much danger! I take my three inches elsewhere!”).

Besides an Asian American fireman who gets no lines, the only other Asian faces we see in Chuck and Larry are five Asian women who come out of a van wearing Hooters-like clothes to “pleasure” Chuck (Sandler) and who’re later seen “having fun” with each other while waiting for Chuck to come back to bed. “Therefore,” Aoki points out, “the impression people get from watching this film is that Asian men are disgusting-looking geeks and that Asian women are sluts.” “Sandler showed his movie to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and edited out scenes they deemed offensive because he didn’t want to make a movie that would offend the gay community. He should’ve shown it to MANAA; we would’ve had quite a few things to say to him (MANAA has consulted with studios about their films, including Rising Sun and Pearl Harbor).”

MANAA is reachable atmanaaletters@hotmail.com, (213) 486-4433, and P.O. Box 6188, Burbank, CA 91510. Please note our new address PRESS CONTACT P.O. Box 6188 Burbank, CA 91510-1105 (213) 486-4433 manaaletters@hotmail.com www.manaa.org